There’s nothing more tragic than a story untold.

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THE THOUGHT STRIKES us all.

Some sooner.

Most of us later.

As soon as we pass the age of thirty, we become suddenly aware of our own mortality.

I passed thirty a long time ago.

I think the Wright Brothers had just flown.

Or maybe it was Wiley Post.

Doesn’t matter.

I have lived a long time trying to outrun my mortality.

It hasn’t gained on me, but I can sometimes hear the echo of its footsteps down a dark and rain-splattered alley somewhere.

That’s how I want go someday.

In a dark alley.

The darker, the better.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the dark alleys that occupy my novels.

I figure I’ll have company among the shadows.

Writers, more than anyone, keep asking: what do we leave behind when we are gone?

Here’s the short list.

Words.

Memories.

Secrets.

May God forgive us for our secrets.

We’ll leave a few published stories and a few published books.

And, tragically, we leave stories untold.

On our desks, the great unwashed will find scraps of paper that hold our ideas and assorted passages we planned to include in a novel someday before the days finally run out.

“What do they mean?” they ask.

No one knows.

Perhaps no one cares.

Perhaps no one even asks the question.

There will be scattered pieces of wrinkled and yellowed paper where we outlined our plots and plot twists, dressed our characters to meet the world on the outside of the novel, and scratched out potential titles.

Some good.

Some bad.

Most are better left unread, wadded up, and thrown away by the cleaning lady.

If God is as merciful as I hope He is, those scraps will burn before my ashes do.

Here is reality.

What looks like a brilliant idea today may wind up looking downright silly in tomorrow’s light of day.

We bleed words.

And not all of them are the right ones.

That’s why everything is scribbled on scattered scraps of paper.

Scattered scraps of paper is where we want them to reside.

Now.

And forever.

If it were a perfect world, we would leave after typing the final period on the final sentence of the final chapter in our final novel.

It would contain the stories of our lives tucked away in three hundred pages, maybe more, provided, of course, our lives have plodded up one road and down another as we weave our way through an epic.

Then again, others might be better off leaving their legacy among the pages of a novella.

Me?

I figure a good short story will just about cover it all.

I am haunted by those final months of Jory Sherman’s life.

He was quite an author who had produced four hundred books.

He was a legend.

But Jory was old.

He was tired.

He was blind.

He was too weak to write.

He couldn’t see the computer screen anyway.

He just lay in bed with a smile on his face.

And he told us all, “I’m still writing novels in my head.” He paused, took a deep breath and said, “You know, some of them are pretty good.”

We’ll never read them.

We’ll never know what we missed..

They say you can’t take it with you.

But they’re wrong.

We do.

Our stories all come with us when we go.

Caleb Pirtle III is author of Little Lies.

Little Lies Final Cover LL Mar 13

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  • Roger Summers

    Don’t go! Who will be there to help those of us who claim to be writers?

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I don’t know who will those who claim to be writers. You shouldn’t worry. You’re way ahead of the pack and have been since you ran Doug Crouch in circles.

  • I can think of worse ways to wait to die. Writing stories in your head is better than not. Too bad he didn’t dictate them.

    But I find that the story I’m writing was all in my head, and it’s the writing down that takes so much time. Maybe the stories he could write in his head were easier – because he didn’t have to do all that writing and editing – so he could get more stories in.

    Maybe God likes stories.

    I read somewhere that a blank page is God’s way of showing us how hard it is to be God.

    You can’t take your money with you – but maybe you CAN take your stories.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Alicia: I think God gives us blank pages just so he can laugh at us.

  • The greatest communicator to walk the face of the earth was a story teller.
    Now we refer to his stories as parables.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Nice. Short. Simple. Full of imagery. He gave us the format and formula.

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